This episode opens a bit differently from normal as we don’t have an initial narration. Instead we hear the sound of a plane, we get some text that tells us we’re in Moscow and then we hear squeals as Yakov and Yuri Plistesky’s group are walking together. It’s a nice touch and a good lead in to getting some narration from Yuri Plistesky. Despite his fairly lengthy appearances in episodes 2 and 3, we really don’t know much about him nor have we heard his view on things. So the transition here is nice as is getting to see Yuri with his family.
Also nice to see how Yuri Plistesky goes from being a much softer more human character when talking with his grandfather about food and then instantly becomes irked when he hears that Victor has arrived in the country. Sometimes it is hard to remember that Yuri Plistesky is still just a teenager and moments like this really help to make sense of some of his more over the top moments.
I’m not going to spend a huge amount of time on them, but here we meet quite a lot of the other skaters at the hotel. After transitioning from Yuri Plisetsky arguing with Victor we run into Yuri Katsuki standing in front of the elevator where he is joined by Seung-gil Lee (and I’m just going to point out that if anyone ever wants to make a spin-off anime about Seung-gil I’m 100% for that).
Yuri takes the moment to once again show off his social anxiety and mentally notes there is no one in this round that he’s really friendly with making it a very different atmosphere. We then have the elevator door open and are introduced to Mickey and Sala (siblings who have their own dramas that play out as a minor plot point) and Emil.
Sala, probably sick of Mickey and Emil’s bickering and possessiveness makes a minor pass at Seung-gil and he turns her down flat before attempting to exit the scene. The storm this causes allows Yuri to sneak off to a different elevator and leave the scene.
You could view all of this as filler but at the same time we’re about to watch these characters compete against Yuri so it is kind of nice that we see a little of their personalities as they arrive in Russia and prepare for the competition. Much like with Minami earlier in the series, despite only appearing for a couple of episodes, each of these characters leaves a mark in the narrative and on the viewers.
Of course, Yuri’s plan to avoid drama backfires as Yuri Plisetsky also gets on the same elevator and after a moment of strained and awkward attempted small talk from Yuri, Plisetsky essentially declares war once again. The contrast between the two characters is nicely managed here though unlike in earlier sequences neither is looking down at the other and they are standing side by side. It shows the growth they’ve both had as characters, despite Plisetsky’s sour expression.
It also shows that the real rivalry between them is still for Victor’s attention even though Victor has made it pretty clear where he is interested.
Emil, Mickey and Seung-gil all skate in the first half and there’s a bit of build up around Mickey and Sala’s relationship and Mickey’s codependency, but I’m not going to focus a lot on that here. Finally we see Yuri preparing to skate and then we cut to Yuri Plisetsky who gets the news that his grandfather won’t make it to watch him skate. Now, all the way through the series Plisetsky’s seemed like the kind who isn’t very sentimental and other than his fixation on Victor doesn’t seem to hold onto emotional connections.
And yet, the look on his face and the tone of voice when he realises his grandfather won’t be there speaks volumes and given what we’ve seen on the show so far, it is clear this is going to have an impact on his performance just when he has the chance to face Yuri again.
After the eye-catch we get a sequence at the hotsprings in Japan where we see the super cute Makkachin eyeing off some plastic wrapped offerings and you just know this isn’t going to end well. I remember the first time I watched this episode and how worried this sequence made me. Even knowing where it goes, I still feel a little sad for Makkachin as he watches the food so closely with that adorable look on his face.
But now it is time for Yuri to skate and once again we get a Victor and Yuri sequence to remember on the edge of the rink before beginning. It has been building up since episode 1 when Yuri asked Yuuko to watch him and every time since when he has been more aggressive in asking for Victor’s attention. Episode 1 he asks ‘please watch’ of Yuuko and that is the same request he makes of Victor in Episode 3. By episode 6 he tells Victor to ‘Never take your eyes off me’.
However, episode 8 takes this to a very new level of aggression and possessiveness. Possibly spurred on by the crowd cheering Victor’s name and feeling left out, Yuri forcibly pulls Victor toward him and commands his full attention as he states the performance has already begun.
The sequence demonstrates where they are in their relationship as well as the uncertainty that Yuri is clearly still feeling about whether Victor is going to stay with him if he doesn’t make the final. There’s a lot of pressure riding on Yuri for his performance but he knows what he wants here. Even as he skates away we hear him thinking how embarrassing the scene was and yet he admits he’s trying to push back at the crowd and make his own stand.
For someone who never had any confidence in himself, he finally wants something enough to overcome that fear and try to grab it and hold onto it.
Yuri Katsuki follows this with a fairly brilliant performance of Eros. However, as the fourth time we’ve seen this routine, we cut away a lot to the judges, Victor’s reactions, and to Yuri Plisetsky’s preparations for his own skate. There’s a sense of melancholy surrounding Plisetsky and we see him mostly from behind and looking fairly isolated as he prepares and watches the final moments of Katsuki’s routine.
However, in typical Plisetsky fashion, he speaks with hostility when he Yuri Katsuki comes off the ice. Still, it is clear the young skater is putting up a tough front here and while he’s trying hard a lot of the usual impact is lacking from both his words and expression.
I think one of the things that gets overlooked about Yuri on Ice is that it isn’t just the people like watching Victor and Yuri. What really works for both of these characters is that they are genuinely nice people. They both have flaws and rough edges, they clash and have issues, but overall they are really the kind of people you would want in your life. This is evident when they see Yuri Plisetsky take the ice and they note that he’s found his agape and are both overjoyed.
Yuri Katsuki is competing against Plisetsky and yet he is still happy to see his competitor has improved and has come a long way. This is just such a great part of the show and a lot of the reason it remains a joy to watch because it doesn’t let itself get bogged down in hostile rivalries that are actually destructive. Whether this is realistic is another story, but it is certainly a lot of the fun of watching.
The final skater to take the ice in the short program after both Yuri’s is JJ. JJ is a character we’ve seen a couple of times in news updates but until now we hadn’t actually met him at a competition. If Yuri Katsuki is someone who is overwhelmed by anxiety and a lack of confidence, JJ is his complete opposite. He is oozing confidence both in the lead up to taking the ice and as he prepares to skate. I find it interesting that both Yuri and JJ have songs named after themselves, JJ for the short program and Yuri for the free skate.
Everything about JJ’s performance is big. His personality come across through his music that he created that tells his story. He inspires the audience to clap and sing along and he’s working the crowd at every moment. For the first time we see JJ take the ice he leaves a large impression as a character who styles himself as larger than life.
As much as you could call him arrogant, it isn’t as though he hasn’t worked to get there, and he isn’t actually antagonistic to the other characters. Still, JJ is the kind of personality I find hardest to deal with in real life and as a result he’s a character I find it difficult to feel anything for other than a hope that he doesn’t get in Yuri’s way. Still, he creates a fairly solid contrast in personality to a lot of the other characters and ultimately he’s a necessary personality in the final mix so he works well in the story.
For the most part, Yuri on Ice has avoided last minute cliff-hangers so it when this one came up while it did feel like a slightly cheap way of building some drama, it isn’t as though the event wasn’t foreshadowed earlier. At the end of the episode Yuri gets a call regarding Makkachin and he’s at the vet. This leads to Yuri telling Victor to return to Japan meaning Yuri is going to be on his own for the free skate. And I love this moment as Yuri desperately wants Victor with him but remembers his own pain at losing a pet when he wasn’t there and so tells Victor to leave. He does it without any strings attached and out of concern for Victor.
While Victor does ask Yakov to take care of him, I think we all knew this wasn’t a great situation and wondered how it would impact on Yuri’s next performance. Not to mention, don’t hurt the dog. I’ll leave you with the final screen before the credits.
My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 8
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.